Vital to the General Public Welfare was a solo exhibition (Edward Day Gallery, Toronto, 2012) revolving around themes of language, authenticity and contingency filtered through the lens of my experience as an adopted-out Cherokee person. I have recently turned the interactive touchwork poems in Vital, a 30-minute performance using the Poetry for Excitable [Mobile] Media (P.o.E.M.M.) mobile apps as the main performance tool.
The title of the show came from documents filed in a 1964 Louisiana court case seeking to ascertain an adopted child’s racial classification. The judge claimed that the proper identification of the child’s race was “vital to the general public welfare”; in other words, whichever way the child was classified, a wrong classification would endanger the fundamental fabric of White culture. The now-hyberbolic seeming claim strikes me as a powerful metaphor for any conversations we have not only about racial classification but also about any number of other issues that some group or another feels is central to their definition of a well-functioning society. All of the works performed in Vital engage the question of how we talk to one another, how we locate ourselves in wider cultural geographies, how we authenticate ourselves against our own expectations and that of others, and how matters that are once seen as so vital – so essential – can later be regarded as contingent.
The performance will consist of augmented readings, whereby I manipulate the P.o.E.M.M. app while performing the text of the poem. I will also be using several text-based apps by different creators (with permission!) I use an iPad connected wirelessly to an AppleTV (via Airplay using WiFi), which then pumps HD video via HDMI to a projector. This allows me to move freely around the stage while operating the pad.
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